When you need to get in shape quickly, whether it’s for a beach trip or a class reunion, there are certain moves that yield fast results, says Sharrell Brown, M.S., ACSM-HFS, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center.
She recommends multi-joint exercises that challenge many parts of the body all at once:
Squats (works the glutes, hamstrings, quads and abs)
Lunges (works the glutes, hamstrings, quads and abs)
Pullups (works the upper back, abs, triceps and biceps)
Pushups (works the triceps, biceps, chest and abs)
Straight leg lifts (works the abs)
Brown likes these moves because they can be tailored to challenge exercisers of all fitness levels and because they can accommodate any plan of motion. For example, advanced exercisers can make pushups more difficult by placing their feet on a step to elevate their legs, moderate levels can perform regular pushups and beginners can try bent-knee pushups.
To see results, you need to burn fat as well as tone your muscles, which is why Brown likes high-intensity interval training (HIIT), performing strength moves with short rest periods between sets.
Perform the moves on non-consecutive days to give you muscles time to recover and rebuild.
“Everyone is different. I suggest starting out with at least 10 reps for three sets with a 10- to 20-second rest between sets. The weight should be challenging, especially on the last three reps. If three sets of 10 starts to get too easy, try three sets of 15.”
Balance toning with cardio
Fitness is all about balance, so in addition to toning your muscles, make time for cardiovascular exercise and stretching.
“Cardio, strength training and flexibility are all important to overall health,” she says. “Cardio not only helps burn fat, but is also beneficial to heart health; strength training is important for everyday function and independence. Flexibility is also important in everyday life, because although you may be working your muscles through exercise, they adapt and rebuild themselves, causing them to be tighter. Therefore, if you do not stretch, some things will become difficult, such as bending over to tie your shoes.”
It is also important to maintain a healthy diet when trying to lose weight. Otherwise, you can undo all of your hard work. While these moves will help you get stronger and more toned, be patient and don’t expect yourself to morph into a supermodel overnight.
“Everyone’s body is different as far a response to training goes,” says Brown.
See more ways to get fit.